March 12, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Senator Jay Paul Gumm
State Capitol: (405) 521-5586
Oklahoma Senate Votes to
Reduce Mercury in Childhood Vaccines
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill to reduce the amount of mercury allowed in childhood vaccinations was approved by the Oklahoma Senate today on a bipartisan 27-17 vote. Senator Jay Paul Gumm, author of Senate Bill 1407, said the purpose of the bill was to remove a substance that causes some parents to have concern about childhood vaccinations.
“I believe strongly that vaccination is the greatest medical success story of the 20th century,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “Vaccinations have saved untold lives and prevented untold suffering. We should do everything possible to promote childhood vaccinations.
“However, the presence of mercury in the form of thimerosal causes great fear for some because of the growing belief there is a link between mercury and the near-epidemic growth of autism. That justifiable and understandable fear is keeping kids from getting vaccinated, and that is a risk we dare not take.”
The bill would limit the amount of mercury to 0.5 micrograms per 0.5 milliliter dose. For influenza vaccine, the amount would be 0.625 micrograms of mercury per 0.25 milliliter dose.
The bill would allow the Commissioner of Health to suspend the limit in cases where large quantities of vaccine are needed in a public health emergency like a real or potential epidemic. SB 1407 mirrors a similar law on the books in Missouri. Six other states have similar laws, and in each of those states the vaccination rate of children increased.
Most vaccine manufacturers are already removing mercury from vaccines, the lawmaker said. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended removing the chemical from vaccinations in 1999.
While the Centers for Disease Control reports many studies show no link between autism and mercury in vaccine, the federal government – through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – recently made a landmark decision to pay compensation to a family that claimed childhood vaccines caused their daughter’s autism.
“Whether is scientifically proven, many Oklahoma parents are convinced there is a link,” Gumm said.
“By phasing out the use of mercury in Oklahoma vaccines, more parents will feel safer about having their children vaccinated, better protecting those children and all of us from the diseases the vaccines prevent.”
The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.